Tag Archives: get in shape

Destroy your Cravings Without Destroying your Diet

Things in my life have been a little bit crazy recently.  Ok, they’ve been A LOT crazy.  I am finishing up projects for a job assignment that ends the first week of June and am preparing for my next assignment with the same company that will take me from Michigan to the New England area.  Eek!

I’ll be working in New Jersey, but this nutty Midwestern gal has decided to live in New York City for the next 9 months.  I’ve always wanted to live in a big city for a while, so why not go for the biggest one, right??  Lol, yeah I have no idea what I’m getting myself into… I realize this :)  

While this is all SUPER exciting it’s kiiiiiinda stressful at the same time.

[Apparently, the unknown freaks me out a little even though I can manage it pretty well.  Lol]

Anyway, with all of this and trying to finish projects and orchestrating a pretty big move, my stress levels have been higher than normal recently.  This means then that my appetite is funky and mainly that my cravings for chocolately and any sweet things are through the roof.  And that is telling because my close friends and family all know that this girl normally craves salty stuff – potato chips, hamburgers, fried foods, etc. 

So the fact that I’m craving sweets means my stress has taken over…  My brain is probably dying for some dopamine or seratonin or something. 

Cravings like these make it kinda tough for this former athlete to lose weight, and I don’t want them to derail the progress I’ve made so far!  Soooo….

When cravings, especially for sweets, are this strong I turn to cocoa powder.  Pure unadulterated, unsweetened, 100% cocoa powder. 

This stuff is the bomb.com.  For realz. 

It is a miracle worker on my cravings and crushes them within almost minutes (usually the cravings have chilled about 30 min after I first start consuming the cocoa powder). Why does it do this?  Cause it’s awesome.  And cause it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain. 

See cocoa powder contains some pretty cool compounds like seratonin, phenylethylamine, and anandamide

-We know seratonin levels are related to eating patterns (higher seratonin levels often mean less food intake). 

-Phenylethylamine is like an identity theif - it passes as dopamine in the brain and carries out transactions like dopamine would.  It’s waaaaay sneaky.

-As if these weren’t reasons enough to consume cocoa, anandamide has actually been referred to as “chemical bliss” for its ability to find and push the “buttons” in the brain that create feelings of euphoria (slightly more technically, it binds to receptors in the brain that stimulate euphoric feelings). 

This is why cocoa is such a power player when it comes to crushing cravings.

Now the question is — How to incorporate it into your diet?  Until I found this suggestion from Metabolic Effect, the only way I knew to incorporate it was to bake brownies or chocolate mint cookies.  And since that’s kind of counter-productive to our weight loss efforts, well then we need other options…

Metabolic Effect suggests making it into a hot drink.  Stir 1 tablespoon into hot water and then sweeten with stevia, xylitol or other low/no cal sweetener. 

Be aware, it’s bitter when you first try it.  Now I can do my drinks with just a smidge of stevia and 2 Tbs cocoa in ~10oz hot water.  But I had to work up to that.  I will tell you though, it’s great for an after-dinner option when you really feel like pulling out the snack items or sweets.  This gives you something to sip on for a while, and by the time you’re done with the drink, the bioactive compounds listed above are already starting to work their magic. 

**Do be careful though if you’re pretty sensistive to caffeine.  There is caffeine in cocoa powder, so proceed with caution when consuming in the evenings.

But there are times when I don’t really want a hot drink, and I want something that feels like dessert.  That was me this weekend, so I whipped up this dessert and thought I’d share it with you all.  It’s a paleo chocolate pudding and it’s so yummy!

 Destroy your Cravings Without Destroying your Diet

The cast of characters are cocoa powder (obviously), light coconut milk, chia seeds and chocolate stevia drops (can sub any other low/no-cal sweetener here but I LOVE these things).

Craving Killer Pudding

-3/4 c light coconut milk
-2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/4 c chia seeds
-2 droppers worth of chocolate stevia drops (or another no-cal sweetener to taste)

Whisk together coconut milk and cocoa powder until there are no visible lumps of cocoa powder (a hand mixer with whisk attachment helps with this).  Stir in chia seeds and sweetener until well combined.  Cover and place in fridge for an hour.  Mixture will thicken into a pudding-like consistency (this is from the chia seeds).  Stir and dive in.

 Craving Killer Pudding

See it’s that easy!  Throw a couple sliced strawberries on top and I’m in heaven!  It’s sooo good!!  Even though it looks a little funny with all the puffy chia seeds, hehe, it’s a far better option than eating several chunks of a sheet cake or a quart of ice cream… which I may or may not have done before… **cough, cough**  Anyway, you get your cravings fighting cocoa powder and the feel of eating a dessert, plus it’s not too coconut-y which is good because I despise coconut.

So there ya have it!  TWO ways to use cocoa – the cravings crusher - to help you get in shape!

Try making either the drink or pudding this week to destroy your cravings and let me know how it goes!

<3 Lauren

How to Get in Shape by Working Out Less

I was never the best player on the team.  Ever.  I usually wasn’t even in the top 3 best on the team.  Someone was always quicker, faster, more aggressive or had a better first touch than I did.  But what I lacked in skills I made up for in my work ethic.

My work ethic was always something I took pride in, and I wasn’t about to let anyone out-work me.  Plus, I learned over the years that my work ethic got me noticed even if I wasn’t awesome, so that was all the more incentive to work my ass off. (yeah, I’ve got issues… but who doesn’t? ;) )

And on top of that, as athletes we were constantly judged by whether or not we were slacking off. Didn’t go up for the rebound or dive for that ball?  Slowed up during that sprint?  Well then we weren’t working hard enough and must not really want it. (um, NOT true!!)

Now hear me before I go on – I DO think that there is a time and a place when going all out is needed, however….

The problem comes when we think the ONLY way to get something is to
WORK REALLY HARD FOR IT.

Hard work is great.  It’s important.  But it’s not the only thing you need to succeed in whatever it is you’re doing.

And it’s definitely NOT the only way to get back into shape.

Too many people beat themselves up when they don’t lose weight because they think they aren’t exercising enough.  So they tack on another 30 min to their already 40 min long cardio sessions.  They end up on the elliptical in the so-called “fat burning zone” for over an hour in the mornings and a spin class after work.  And what do they get?  They’re starving with wild cravings later.  Their body starts chomping on the muscle they already have, and eventually they have to add MORE cardio because the body is smart and has adapted to what they’ve been doing. Not to mention that they don’t really have time for 2 hrs at the gym every day.  [I speak from experience here - been there.  Done that.]

The “just work harder” approach usually fixed the problems we faced as athletes (or so we thought…)  But it actually works against us – in fat loss and in life.  So what do we change if we want results?

Start working SMARTER.

Seriously, that’s the key.

Instead of working harder, i.e. spending 2 hours of your day at the gym, change your workouts so that they’re more effective, more efficient.

Dumbbells

What do effective and efficient workouts look like?  They incorporate weight lifting and intense cardio and they don’t last very long at all (think, 20 min of actual work).

They also incorporate Rest-Based Training (RBT) – the brainchild of the folks at Metabolic Effect.  The idea of these workouts is to “Push until you can’t, Rest until you can”

Basically, you work as intensely as possibly until you can’t do another rep or until the weight is too heavy or you can’t get your breath.  Then you STOP and REST!  You rest as long as you need until you can go all out again.  Then you pick up where you left off and continue the workout.

Honestly, at first I thought there was no way something like this would work.  Bc, duh, stopping for a breather is for wimps and slacker-faces.  …Oh how little I knew :D  Trust me, you pick up a set of dumbbells and run through the workout below WITHOUT PACING YOURSELF and you will get why RBT works.  You’ll be sweating like crazy, breathing heavy, your muscles will be burning and you’re using heavy weights (ladies, please avoid the 3lb set… remember your lifting sessions in college where you were piling the plates on the squat rack or leg press??  you can lift more than you think!).

The workout below is based on something Metabolic Effect designed called the “Spark” workout.  The movements are simple but effective.  It’s my go-to workout when I want an efficient and effective full-body workout that takes under 30 minutes.  (To learn more about what happens with your hormones in these kinds of workouts, read this ME article – especially the section on EPOC.  Awesome stuff!)  Here’s how it goes:

1.  Choose your dumbbells.  Start by taking the weight that you can perfectly curl 3 times, and 3 times only.  Then cut that # in half.  Use a set of dumbbells that weight.  If you’re between sets, I’d round up.  Example – I can do 3 perfect form bicep curls with a 30lb dumbbell (I break form if I try to do a 4th curl).  So then I cut 30 in half and use 15lb set for this workout.

2. Warm-up for ~5 minutes.  Get the heart pumping and blood flowing – jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, whatevs.

3.  Start a timer for 20 minutes.  Do 12 reps of each of the 4 exercises below in order.  Then repeat.  So –> 12 of A, 12 of B, 12 of C, 12 of D, then 12 of A, 12 of B…. you get the picture.  You should probably get through at least 3 rounds in 20 minutes.  If you get more than 5 rounds in 20 min, you’re not resting enough and should choose heavier weights next time.

4.  During the workout, DO NOT PACE.  Stop to rest as needed, then pick up right where you left off.  Remember-

PUSH UNTIL YOU CAN’T, REST UNTIL YOU CAN.

5.  Stop after 20 minutes.  Please cool down and stretch.  Go for a slow walk.  You’re not as young as you used to be ;)  JK, but seriously… stretch and walk.

6.  Enjoy the endorphins :)

Exercises
**Don’t forget, it’s time to rest if you can’t do the movement with proper form**

A – Squat into a shoulder press
B – On the floor – Chest press into a crunch
C – R leg Lunge – curl – L leg lunge – curl
D – Bent over row into a tricep kickback

That’s it!  If you have questions, ask away here or on my FB page (Once An Athlete, Always an Athlete).

Just leave a “Yup!” in the comments if you’re gonna give RBT a try this week and see how amazing it feels to stop working so damn hard and start working smarter!